PART 1: Teacher kits mailed
PART 2: Web registration issues
PART 3: Call your local PBS affiliate
PART 4: Volunteer writers needed for "Junior Reports"
PART 5: Roger and Todd describe observing and flight planning
PART 6: Juan works on an experiment change and then gravel ruins the day


The teacher kits were shipped last week. These kits include:
 * a printed 64-page Teacher's Guide, chock full of student activities
 * an original color poster with more activities printed on the back
 * four spectrum glasses
 * a diffraction grating
 * several sheets of heat-sensitive paper
 * a bonus Passport to Knowledge bumper sticker

If you already ordered the kit, you may have already received it. If not,
you will get it shortly. If you have not yet ordered a kit, there is still
time. To receive the package, send a check for $10 to: Live From the
Stratosphere, PO Box 1502, Summit, New Jersey 07902-1502.

A rough version of the Teacher's Guide is also available online.
Look under the "Guides & Things" button on our Web site at


Web registration has proven to be troublesome for some folks. The
problems have been traced to an unexpected situation, intermittent faults
and poor direction following.

The unexpected situation involved America Online users. We designed our
registration process so that no password was necessary, only a username.
To our surprise, AOL's web browser demands that users enter a password.
So we have updated our registration system for users whose browsers
disallow a blank password field. These people identify themselves when
they first register and then use a password of "lfs" (that is el-eff-ess,
without the quotes; not eye-eff-ess or one-eff-ess). But most users will
continue to be able to get in without any password.

A few times over the last week our registration process has failed due
to disk management issues. We think that these problems have finally
been corrected. If you do run into difficulties when connecting, please
try the following:
1) Re-register using your same name (first initial and last name). Then try
entering our Web again.
2) If you tried with no password, try with again with "lfs" as the password;
or if you tried with "lfs", instead try with a blank password.
3) Wait an hour and try again.
If you continue to have problems, please email us at 
quest-web@quest.arc.nasa.gov and provide the details.

Finally, many folks don't seem to be reading or following the instructions.
Alas the Internet can still be unfriendly and not very tolerant of errors.
So it is important to take a few moments to read directions and follow
them exactly.  In the case of registering, the directions ask for a first
initial and last name, without spaces. So a woman named Mavis Davis
should register under the name mdavis, not M. Davis or m davis or squiggy.
Please take this gentle reminder in the right spirit. We want you to
succeed in your Internet adventuring, and that will often mean that you
must follow the directions to a T.


If you plan on viewing the television programs live or on tape, now is
a good time to begin planning how you will do this.  

Perhaps your first action should be a call to your local PBS station.
Find out if they will be carrying the programming live or delayed.
They can tell you their schedule. If they are not planning to show
the shows, consider organizing a teacher phone campaign to inform your
local station of your educational wishes. Now is the timeframe that many
stations are planning their October schedules and it often doesn't take
many call to capture their attention.

If that does not work, contact your cable company to see if they might
carry NASA Television for these events. Other avenues to try include
instructional television systems , community colleges or anyone with
access to a satellite dish.  Good luck.


During past projects, we have received comments that some of the
updates are too long or that some vocabulary/concepts are too difficult
for the average middle schooler. So for this project, in addition to the
regular Field Journals, we will be offering an easier-to-read version
geared towards an average 5th/6th grader's interests and vocabulary.
These messages will be distilled from the regular messages. I am looking
for a few volunteers who would be willing to produce these reports.
These folks should have a clear understanding of 5th/6th grade reading
skills. I expect to begin these reports in about two weeks and continue
through early November. Volunteers would be expected to write no more
than one report per week. If you are interested, please send a note to me
at marc@quest.arc.nasa.gov. Thank you.

If you are interested in receiving these so-called Junior Reports, please
send an email to . Leave the subject blank,
and in the message body, write these words: subscribe junior-lfs


[Editor's note: the following entries are excerpted from a series written
by Roger and Todd which document their adventure in flying onboard the
KAO. Complete info can be found on the Web at

Roger Stryker - Wednesday, September 6, 1995

What a strange feeling it was - to begin school again, as I had done each
morning the two weeks prior to our trip to California to fly in the
Kuiper!  I know I'll never look at the night sky the same as I had before
this experience. Right now, it seems I'll forever be thinking back to Dan
Lester's distant galaxies, too faint to see without a powerful telescope. 
And, the objects in our second mission with astronomer Xander Tielens -
the clouds of dust and gas surrounding distant stars. Xander and his
group are working to identify the drifting elements within the clouds. 

At 41,000 feet, only a television monitor that's attached to a video
camera on the telescope tells us that we are looking skyward. We look at
the data on the computer monitor as the detectors feed in the information
they are collecting. In Dan Lester's case, the instrument, a RESOLUTION
PHOTOMETER, recorded the ancient beams of light in the far infrared part
of the spectrum. With the Xander Tielens group, the instrument used 120
detectors (a GRATING SPECTROMETER) to document the spectrum of the near
infrared. Both sets of detectors are deep in a thermos-like container
surrounded by super cooling liquid nitrogen and helium. Dan's instrument
was attached to the telescope inside its cavity, sealed from the
pressurized and heated cabin. The instrument the Tielens group used was
attached to the telescope outside the cavity with us, in the cabin. 

In both cases, we could observe the mechanism, which includes four
pneumatic vibration isolators (like shock absorbers), cushioning the
combined telescope/detector from the constant movement and vibration of
the airplane. The telescope is stabilized by gyro-stabilization elements. 
With the help of large electromagnets this all works together to refine
the effect of the plane's movement on the telescope to nothing, keeping
the telescope steadily on its target. In the cabin of the plane we could
see the whole mechanism moving, sometimes a great deal, most of the time
only a little. But I said that wrong, the telescope was actually staying
steady, pointing at its object, and the plane, with us in it, was actually
moving around the telescope. 

While the telescope is pointed and the detector and computer do the data
collecting, there is little to do but monitor the process. Remember,
we're sitting, or standing, around the instruments with headsets on that
serve to deaden the constant loud noise of the airplane, and, at the same
time, allow us to communicate using the small headset microphones.  If
were to take the headset off, shouting and hand signals would be our only
means of communication. We're on the same audio channel as the
astronomers, so chatter is kept to a minimum. We hear an occasional
status report and some joking and comments. You get used to the muffled
droning of the airplane as it completes its preplanned observation
stretches, or "legs". The headsets covering our ears quickly become
comfortable and virtually unnoticeable. 

After a long stretch of observing, the plane banks, or turns, to adjust 
for the next leg. Every time we change course to prepare the telescope 
to find the next target, it has to be "caged", or locked down. The 
planned course changes and accompanying banks of the airplane take on, as 
the night wears on, the quality of a yawn or stretch, shaking us out of a 
trance. Each course change becomes a welcome event - at the beginning, 
it signals that we are one step closer to a successfully completed 
mission, but, near the end, for us rookies at least, it means that we 
were one leg closer to a bed.

I don't think we talked about how the flight plan had to be put together. 
Where did we fly for 7 and a half hours so the viewing could be done? The
telescope looks out the left side of the C-141, just in front of the wing,
with a lower limit of 35 degrees and upper limit of 75 degrees - 0 degrees
is toward the horizon and 90 degrees directly overhead. It is limited to
viewing only what it is able to see from its cavity. A course has to be
planned out to have the plane travel in "legs", each "leg" specifying a
particular heading in order to view a particular celestial object from 
the left side of the plane.  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Todd McDowell - Thursday, September 7, 1995

I am going to pick up this thread and tell you what I know about
creating flight plans. Everything that I know about making these plans I
learned while sitting in front of a computer screen in the hangar, near
the Kuiper. Dan Lester was kind enough to spend some time letting me try
out a piece of software called KNAV. It is designed to help the
astronomers plan the legs, or sections, of their observation route. 

There are several types of limitations. First, and perhaps foremost, is
the limitation of time. The Kuiper can stay aloft for 7 1/2 hours. 
comfortably, and it is necessary to keep the flights under this limit. I
don't know how much fuel we had when we landed after either flight, but
this is one rule I wouldn't argue with simply because of the consequences
if we did run out of fuel while in the air, out in the middle of the Rockies.

The second rule is that we must wind up in the same place we started.
This is very reasonable when you look at a map of the Western U.S. Notice
that there are not many cities out that way. Besides, I would think that
fuel prices are better at the home base than almost anywhere else. So this
means that the flight will be a circuit of sorts. Our first flight was not
circular at all, while the second one was. 

The positions of the objects to be studied determine the course of the
plane. The objects had to be at least 35 degrees above the horizon but not
more than about 75 degrees or the telescope could not point to them.  As
Roger said, the telescope looks out the plane to the left, so the person
who plans the flight has to know exactly where the object will be at a
given time and then point the plane 90 degrees to the right of it. A bit

The computer software makes the planning much easier because it can tell
you where the objects will be at different times of the night. Then it is
just a matter of planning a circuit where all the objects are seen when
they are "up" in view and in an order that allows one to be seen right
after the other. Astronomers who wait so long for their turn to go up in
the Kuiper do not want to waste any time. They want to be gathering data
every minute if possible. Any leg (and these were VERY short) where they
were not looking at an object was called a "dead leg". I think that

I got the chance to plan a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii, and even
though I did not start with a list of objects I made my flight take in as
many planets as possible. It was difficult to do, and this was supposed to
be easier than the flight plans for our flights. My only regret is that I
didn't get to fly the route that I picked! 

Anyway, there's more to it than it may seem, but once again, computers
have made this job infinitely easier. It would be an incredibly
complicated process if one had to look up all the information on the
position of the objects in a book and then plan out the flight by trial
and error. 

I would like to thank you for allowing us to share our experiences on this
great adventure with you. In my last journal, I hope to write something
that would sum up this experience better than just telling you what we
did every day. I will also provide the outcomes of our in-flight
experiments at that time. 


[Editor's note: The passages below continues a series of journals
from last year as a preview of what is to come.]

Juan Rivera, Telescope Operator, 5/11/94

This is an experimenter change day. We started removing the last
experiment the morning we landed. Now the next one is half on. I am
working the second shift and I'm just wrapping it up here at 11:45PM.
The weeks that I'm flying are really devoted to work, sleep, and food.
That's about it. I've been in Hawaii for about a week now and I haven't been
to the hotel pool yet, and I've only been to the beach twice very
briefly. Considering it's out the back door of the hotel, that's pretty bad! 
As you know, I flew last night and finally got to the hotel at 6:30AM this
morning. I was less-than-delighted to find that the air conditioner was
not working and my room was really cozy...  about 90 degrees and nice and
humid! I crawled in bed and went to sleep after eating some cold cereal I
stocked for just such an occasion.  

I woke up at 11:30 and spent the next few hours waiting for my boss to
call me and tell me what shift I was supposed to work. He never did, so I
finally got dressed and headed off to Hickam Air Force Base at 3:00 PM.
As I suspected, he was too busy "putting out fires" to remember to call.  
Everyone had been working all morning since 6:00AM getting the last
experimenter's gear off the plane and packed up for shipment back to the
mainland, and getting the next one's gear ready to put on the plane.
Most everyone was working on overtime when I got here. They finally left
about 5:00.  Some stayed to 6:00.

Well, that's about it for today. I left a note for the day guys explaining
what I got done this evening so they can begin again in the morning. This
experiment is really completely new, so we don't know exactly how to
balance their dewar (instrument) on the back of the telescope. The whole
telescope with their dewar on the back must be perfectly balanced for the
pointing  system to work properly. We do it by attaching weights in
various places all  around the telescope. Since many of the investigators
use the same basic equipment year after year, we keep careful notes so
we can install their equipment and get it balanced quickly. But with a new
installation it can take many hours. Good luck to the day shift folks!

Good night for now...  Juan

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Kuiper Airborne Observatory Flight Log
Juan Rivera - Airborne Telescope Operator
Friday, May 13, 1994

Tonight was to be a research flight. But during the preflight
check of the aircraft, the flight engineer found gravel and
rocks in all four of our engines!!  It turns out that earlier
in the day an aircraft parked in front of us goosed his throttles
as he was taxing away and peppered us with debris. If the flight
engineer had not noticed the gravel they probably would have
badly damaged all four engines at start up. It's a very lucky
thing that he caught that. And it's an example of why we do
very thorough checks of everything prior to a flight. There is
much less margin for errors and problems in aircraft than other
forms of transportation.  You can't just pull over if you have

So now the engines will have to be x-rayed to see if more debris
is inside where we can't see it. Depending what they find, we
could be out of business I'm afraid. I'm not an engine mechanic
but I think we might have to swap out all four engines if worst
comes to worst. I'm told that it will cost us $500,000 if we have
to swap out the engines. In that case, the replacement engines would
probably be shipped from Travis Air Force Base in California. Since
our schedule is planned out for months in advance, there is very
little room to slip it when something like this happens. The
new experimenters could end up losing flights.

Right now, the folks of the flight crew are over at Flight Operations 
filing an FOD report. FOD stands for "Foreign Object Damage". If
loose debris is left laying around where aircraft operate, this
sort of thing happens, and it's very expensive. The folks that
were in the plane at the time said the plane was getting really
blasted with rocks which they could hear bouncing off the skin.
I'm sure the flight crew will have a few choice words for the
Flight Operations people. It's not necessary to use a lot of
power to get the plane moving, especially when there is another
one behind you. Those guys knew better.

Well enough said about that. I had a great time this afternoon.
Michael, a computer programmer on the project with me, and I
went snorkeling. We found a great little beach where only about
five people were taking a scuba class. We were swimming along
in some pretty shallow water and it didn't look all that good -
only about 3 feet deep - when we came across an area where the
bottom dropped off to a depth of about 30 feet. There were great
big living coral growths the size of small cars with quite a few
fish here and there. Michael grabbed my fin to get my attention
and pointed down under one of these big coral growths, and there
was a big sea turtle about two feet long!  He slowly swam away
and we followed him for about ten minutes. I didn't want to
get too close although I would have loved to swim up and touch
him. He looked slightly injured and was favoring his left
flipper, but appeared pretty healthy to me.

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